[Photo credit: Experience Grand Rapids]

Numbers just released by the global data gathering company Nielsen show that off-premise sales of cider were up 7.8 percent overall in the first quarter of 2018, with the sale of regional brands up a very healthy 27.8 percent. That will certainly give Michigan cidermakers something to celebrate as they kick off the 2nd annual Cider Week Grand Rapids on Sunday, May 13. Inaugurated by the Michigan Cider Association (MCA) in 2017 as a way to showcase the state’s cider producers, the week has expanded to more than 100 different events throughout the city, including restaurants pouring special cocktails, cider tastings, and even a Cider Family Bocce Tournament.

John Behrens, cidermaker and owner of Famhaus Cider Co. and one of the week’s organizers, is excited about all the possibilities for connecting with consumers. “My overall mission is to push the boundaries of what cider can mean to people. I want to challenge what people think of as cider.” He’s particularly focused on food pairings this year and is not only collaborating with a number of local restaurants for pairing dinners but has created a special cider that will be served in floats at a local ice cream parlor. Equally important, he believes, is how the week makes visible local consumer enthusiasm for cider, an important message to the trade customer.

Cider in Michigan has seen steady growth over the last 15 years, which is a good thing in a state with more than 11.3 million apple trees. As of January 2018, Michigan is home to 87 companies making cider, many of which will be on-hand to pour their ciders at the Gillett Bridge Festival, the week’s culminating event on May 19, and one of MCA board member Andy Sietsema’s favorite events of the week. “It’s fun to do. It’s so cool to have so many Michigan cideries together,” says Siestema, the fourth-generation owner and cidermaker at Sietsema Orchard and Cider Mill just outside Grand Rapids.

Grand Rapids has long been home to the Great Lakes International Cider and Perry (GLINTCAP) competition. Now in its 13th year, GLINTCAP is the largest cider competition in the world with entries that span the globe. The Great Lakes Cider and Perry Association, the organization behind GLINTCAP, was happy to move the competition to May to coincide with Cider Week Grand Rapids. The 2018 GLINTCAP Best of Class winners will be announced at the Gillett Bridge Festival.

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